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JULY 1 2011 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
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Rosminians not guilty of cover-up, say victims
BY ED WEST
A GROUP of victims of the Rosminian order clerical abuse scandal has criticised reports of a cover-up by the order following a BBC documentary last week.
Former pupils at St Michael’s in Sony, Tanzania, defended Fr David Myers, the Rosminian’s British provincial, after he was portrayed as keeping abuse by four priests in the 1960s secret.
Patrick Donaldson, who was physically abused at Soni before attending the other school involved, Grace Dieu in Leicestershire, said he was “dismayed” at the way Fr Myers was “panned by the documentary”.
Along with another former pupil, Kenny Balson, Mr Donaldson said that Fr Myers had from the beginning offered to make a joint press statement about the abuse.
The programme, Abused: Breaking the Silence, told the story of former pupils at two Rosminian-run schools who were physically and sexually abused by four priests, Fr Bernard Collins, Fr Douglas Rayner, Fr William Jackson and Fr Christopher Cunningham.
But Fr Myers said the documentary and the press coverage that followed it gave a misleading impression of events. He insisted that from the first meeting with the 43 abuse victims he had been open.
“I said that this was going to become public, and we should offer a joint press release whenever it suited them,” he said.
In a statement last week he said: “From the very beginning, attempts were made to be open and transparent. Apologies were offered without reservation on behalf of my brethren to those who suffered. Such abuse was a grievous breach of trust to them and their families. We are appalled by what was done to them. We accept that we have moral and pastoral responsibility to the survivors for the harm done to them.”
Fr Myers said that when accusations of abuse at St Michael’s and Grace Dieu first surfaced in September 2009 “the police, the hierarchy and Church safeguarding officials in the risk management of the accused were immediately informed” and meetings were held with representatives of the survivors.
More than 40 former pupils from the two schools approached the Rosminian
A BBC documentary about abuse at two Rosminian schools has been criticised by victims
PA photo order, officially known as the Institute of Charity, with allegations against the four priests.
Fr Myers was approached in September 2009, and Mr Donaldson was asked by a group of former Grace Dieu pupils to be a mediator and to submit reports on Fr Bernard Collins. He said that in their opening address the group told Fr Myers that they were not seeking compensation but only wanted recognition, reconciliation and an admission.
The former pupils made a submission, which Mr Donaldson sent by recorded delivery to Fr Myers. “[Fr] Myers was absolutely shocked and telephoned me and said we admit there have been terrible wrongdoings,” he recalled.
After Fr Myers had interviewed Fr Collins, who admitted to acts of violence and sexual perversion, there was a mediation meeting in November with Fr Myers and four abuse victims. Mr Donaldson said that at this point Fr Myers offered to make a press statement, an offer that he said was refused by the Grace Dieu pupils.
But Francis Lionnet, who has emerged as a spokesman for the 22 seeking compensation, said that he and the other men involved have no memory of Fr Myers’s offer.
He said: “I wouldn’t categorically rule it out because it was a time of intense exchanges between Grace Dieu and Soni alumni and others and maybe it got lost in there.”
All four priests confessed to abuse in signed letters witnessed by Fr Myers, who arranged for the abusers to write letters of apology to victims, and in some cases to arrange meetings. In November 2009 Fr Myers invited various victims to St Etheldreda’s church in Holborn, central London, where Fr Cunningham had been rector for 30 years.
Fr Myers had also allowed two of the complainants, qualified accountants, to look at the order’s finances over the last 10 years.
In an email sent to 60 abuse victims in February 2010, which has been seen by The Catholic Herald, Fr Myers wrote: “I am about to prepare a press release for the order. It might be possible to do a joint one together. Obviously I would prefer if the sad story remain private. It would be a pity that the Grace Dieu and Ratcliffe of today should be harmed in the good work that they are doing, if the story became public. But this is your call.” When Mr Lionnet and 21 other former pupils of the two schools announced that they would sue, the Rosminians said they were forced to withdraw their cooperation under legal advice.
Cardinal backs protest against blasphemy laws
BY ED WEST
CARDINAL Keith O’Brien has called for changes in the law in Pakistan to protect Christians and other minorities.
Cardinal O’Brien lent his support to Aid to the Church in Need’s (ACN) petition calling for a change to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which have been blamed for 10 murders in recent years.
The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh said last week: “I have been aware of the persecution of
Christians and those of other faiths in Pakistan and I am only too happy to endorse this petition.”
Less than a week after it was launched, the petition has already collected more than 1,150 signatures in support of persecuted minorities in Pakistan. The petition will be presented to 10 Downing Street at the end of a protest march in London tomorrow, July 2, organised by the British Pakistani Christian Association. ACN will join other Christian and secular groups at the march calling for a change to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
Codes 295B and 295C impose severe penalties for offences against Islam, with life imprisonment for anyone desecrating the Koran and execution for insulting the Prophet Mohammed. Pakistan’s 2.8 million Christians, evenly split between Catholics and Protestants, say that the law allows people to make malicious allegations which often lead to mob violence. Ten people accused of blasphemy have been murdered in the past decade.
This is not the first time the cardinal has spoken out. In March he criticised Government plans to double aid to Pakistan to £455 million, saying: “To increase aid to the Pakistan government when religious freedom is not upheld and those who speak up for religious freedom are gunned down is tantamount to an anti-Christian foreign policy.”
The Government’s decision came after Christian mother-of-five Asia Bibi was put on trial, and the high-profile murder of two prominent Pakistani politicians who spoke out in defence of minority freedom.
The march begins at 11am at the Pakistani High Commission in Lowndes Square, London, where a copy of the petition will be submitted. Addresses will be given by Dr Michael Nazir Ali, former Anglican Bishop of Rochester and the Rev Stuart Windsor, national director of
Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: “Pakistani Christians will be protesting for a reform of laws that have been used as a tool for oppression and an opportunity to settle personal vendettas.”
He said there were only 8,000 Pakistani Christians in Britain and that therefore the rest of Britain’s Catholics needed to offer their support and “create a voice for [Pakistan’s] voiceless minorities”.
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Bishop clashes with MSP over Catholic schools Confession leads to true happiness, says archbishop
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
A SCOTTISH bishop has criticiseda Tory MSP for making “offensive” and “malicious” comments because he claimed that the west of Scotland’s school system was overseeing “state-sponsored conditioning of sectarian attitudes”.
The Conservative justice spokesman, John Lamont MSP, was debating emergency laws to increase jail terms for sectarian-related behaviour connected to football when he claimed that segregating children between Catholic and non-denominational schools contributed to the problem.
The justice spokesman said: “The reality is that young men who are at these football matches are acting in the way that is a result of the conditioning that has started at a very early age. I would argue that certain parts of society, admittedly small, in west Scotland have promoted the culture, including partly through our education system. This segregation of our young people has brought them up to believe that the two communities should be kept separate.”
But Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell said evidence pointed to an overwhelming majority of Catholic parents, as well as many parents of other denominations, choosing to send their children to
Catholic, rather than non-denominational, schools. The bishop, who is also president of the Catholic Education Commission, said: “The claim that Catholic schools are the cause of sectarianism is offensive and untenable. There has never been any evidence produced by those hostile to Catholicism to support such a malicious misrepresentation. Is Mr Lamont really claiming that he knows better than parents what is in the best interests of their children? Is it arrogance or ignorance on his part? Let him either produce the hard evidence to support such irresponsible claims or withdraw them.”
Scottish Church spokesman Peter Kearney added: “These remarks are both inflammatory and insensitive. The Catholic Church rejects and repudiates them entirely. As a matter of urgency the Conservative Party should issue a reassurance to Scotland’s Catholics that Catholic schools enjoy the support of the Conservative Party.”
Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham also condemned Mr Lamont’s remarks. She said: “After listening to John Lamont’s astonishing diversion into a diatribe against Scottish education, I really do think that perhaps they [the Scottish Conservatives] need to reconsider how they are going to approach the whole issue of sectarianism in Scotland.”
BY ED WEST
THE RISE in the number of people going to Confession is due to a desire to return to God, the source of all happiness, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham has said as he launched the annual Day for Life event.
At the launch of the event, which this year focuses on happiness, Archbishop Longley said that it was through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we experience true happiness.
He said: “It makes us at one with God, at one with our neighbour and at one with ourselves.”
The archbishop spoke as 350,000 leaflets were sent to parishes in England and Wales to celebrate the Day for Life, which is held on July 31. The theme this year will be: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.”
The leaflet text draws on the words of Pope Benedict XVI when he spoke to young people at the Big Assembly in Twickenham.
The Holy Father said: “Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.”
To mark the launch the organisers released a video interview with Bishop Michael Evans of East Anglia, recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. In the interview he explained that he believed his illness could be a blessing to others while he continued his ministry. Despite having been given just weeks to live, he said that at the heart of his understanding of faith is God as love.
In parishes across England and Wales on or around the weekend of July 31 there will be a second collection to assist the work of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre (formerly the Linacre Centre) and other life-related activities supported by the Church.
Last year’s Day for Life raised more than a quarter of a million pounds, including £50,000 for the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, £50,000 for Ethical Stem Cell Research and £12,000 for CPCP (City Pregnancy Counselling Psychotherapy).
The Day for Life theme last year was death, and in 2009 it was suicide. In 2008 the theme was mental health.
NEWSBULLETIN Bishops urge faithful to support Catholic seafarers TWO Catholic bishops have urged the faithful to support the work of the Apostleship of the Sea on Sea Sunday, July 10.
In a joint message, Bishop Tom Burns of Menevia and Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen said that “hundreds of thousands of seafarers are working on ships crossing vast expanses of ocean to bring us the goods we use and consume every day. Many of these seafarers are lonely, tired and spiritually deprived. Typically recruited from poorer countries where wages are lower, seafarers spend up to 12 months at a time away from wives, sons, daughters and friends on the high seas. They are enduring dangerous working conditions and even exploitation.”
Archbishop appeals to parishes ARCHBISHOP Vincent Nichols of Westminster has urged parishes to nurture new vocations to the priesthood and recognise themselves as the provider of future Catholic priests.
In an interview with the Westminster Record the archbishop said: “Every parish ought to be asking itself: how do we nurture in our parish vocations to the priesthood. In every diocese and this diocese there are some parishes that become real seedbeds of vocations. Now I think it is a lot to do with the life of prayer within families and within parishes. That’s the invitation to every parish to see itself as a provider of the priests of the future.”
The archbishop was reflecting on his first two years as Archbishop of Westminster in the interview with the diocesan monthly newspaper. A video of the interview is available on the diocesan website.
Ordinariate clergy ordained BISHOP Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth has ordained deacons David Elliott, Jonathan Redvers Harris and Graham Smith to the priesthood.
The ordinations of the three ex-Anglican priests were for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Speaking after the Mass, Bishop Hollis welcomed them and said he prayed their ministry would “be joyful and bear much fruit”.
Report says RE is marginalised RELIGIOUS education is already being marginalised as a result of being left out of the English Baccalaureate, according to a new report, and is set to disappear altogether from the curriculum of many secondary schools.
A survey by the National Association of Teachers of RE found that GCSE entries for RE had dropped by a third in academies and community schools.
Bishops appoint Valladolid rector THE BISHOPS of England and Wales have appointed Fr John Pardo as rector of the English College in Valladolid. Fr Pardo is currently the college’s vice-rector.
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Minister intervenes in Cardinal Vaughan school row
BY MARK GREAVES
A GOVERNMENT Minister has intervened in a row between Church authorities and parents at a top Catholic school in west London.
Education Minister Lord Hill said he would try to tighten regulations so that governing bodies have to include parents of children attending the school.
His statement came after the Diocese of Westminster refused to re-appoint any parent governors on the board of Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School.
Its decision was challenged by parents but the Court of Appeal ruled that the diocese had acted lawfully in rejecting two parents as governors. Instead the diocese appointed parents of children who attended other Catholic schools. Paul Barber, the diocesan director of education, is one of the new parent governors.
Lord Hill announced his intention in a letter to Lord Lexden, who had raised concerns about the t reatment of Cardinal Vaughan parents in the House of Lords.
Lord Lexden, a Conservative peer, said that “vigilance is needed in protecting choice and rights which parents have long enjoyed”.
He said that parents of Cardinal
Peer says assisted suicide is inevitableBYMADELEINETEAHAN
A LEADING rabbi has expressed sympathy with the idea of legal assisted suicide while insisting that doctors should be excluded from any proposed system and reiterating her opposition to euthanasia.
Delivering the 2011 Tyburn Lecture at the Tyburn Convent in Hyde Park, London, Baroness Neuberger said: “I do have some sympathy – and many people I think will disagree with me – I do have some sympathy with the idea that that people who are already terminally ill and finding their situation unbearable, that they should be given the wherewithal to take their own lives.”
She added: “I am not in favour of euthanasia, I am not in favour of physician-assisted suicide. I don’t think it is a good idea for our health professionals to kill their patients any more than they do accidentally, I just don’t think it is a good idea.”
The rabbi predicted that a change in public policy concerning assisted suicide was inevitable, given the growing support for the practice among young people. She told her audience that the wider debate would not subside and so a battle ahead was imminent. She said: “This debate is going to run and run. We are not going to get away from it in any way in our lifetimes.
“My guess is that at some point there is going to be a change in public policy because if you look at the huge range of public opinion you will see that young people are more in favour of people being able to take their own lives or indeed to ask health professionals to do it for them. So I think we have a battle on our hands.”
The legislative drive to introduce assisted dying is expected to gain momentum when the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, releases a report authored by a Commission on Assisted Dying which he chairs.
The commission describes itself as an independent body despite being funded by pro-euthanasia campaigners Terry Pratchett and Dignity in Dying. Pro-life campaigners and leading politicians have questioned the commission’s neutrality on the basis of its donors and Lord Falconer’s outspoken support for assisted dying. The majority of his commissioners also support assisted dying.
Defending the commission’s legitimacy on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme, Lord Falconer said: “The funding for the commission comes from two people who are in favour of changing the law but I and all my commissioners have made it absolutely clear that we will approach the matter on the evidence.”
Vaughan pupils were being “denied their proper role”. “This is a case which has implications for all 4,000 voluntary-aided schools in England,” he said. “The law needs to be clarified.”
According to Lord Hill’s letter, the regulations will be tightened in an amendment to the Education Bill currently passing through Parliament. Consultation on it will begin in the autumn.
The Vaughan Parents’ Action Group described the intervention as a “breakthrough”.
In a statement it claimed that the diocese had gone to “extraordinary lengths” to keep Vaughan parents out of the governing body and had “shamelessly exploited” a loophole in the law. It said: “We don’t understand why the diocese has been at such pains to exclude us, but we believe that it has in mind changes to Cardinal Vaughan which no parent there would want.”
The group urged supporters to appeal to Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster to appoint parent governors to the school before the recruitment of a new head teacher in the autumn.
Its statement said: “It is essential that everyone has confidence that the governing body is correctly constituted before it undertakes this most important task. Archbishop Nichols has the power to do this. He is clearly, in our view, morally obliged to do it.”
The battle for the control of Cardinal Vaughan began last year when the diocese rejected two parent governors and installed Mr Barber, its own director of education, on the board.
The move followed a fierce row over admissions criteria. In 2009 the diocese had reported the school to the Schools Adjudicator, arguing that it was in breach of the admissions code. The diocese stated that baptism should be the only religious criterion for admissions, whereas Cardinal Vaughan had asked i f parents were involved in parish activities other than attending Mass. The Schools Adjudicator ruled that this was unlawful.
The school, in Kensington, south-west London, is heavily oversubscribed, turning down five out of every six applications.
Since the autumn parents have challenged the legality of the diocese’s appointments to the governing body in the High Court and in the Appeal Court. In both cases the judges backed the diocese.
The row escalated over the winter when Michael Gormally, the Vaughan’s retired headmaster,
wrote a letter to Archbishop Nichols saying the diocese had treated the school “with contempt bordering on malice”.
Meanwhile, in April a meeting of the board of governors had to be adjourned because of parents and pupils holding a candle-lit vigil outside the gates and singing “Faith of our Fathers”.
The Vaughan Parents’ Action Group, formed last year, has peers, MPs, academics, lawyers and journalists as its patrons. The novelist Piers Paul Read, the former MP Ann Widdecombe, and Lord Lexden, who raised the issue in the House of Lords, are among them.
Eucharistic flash mob brings shoppers in Lancashire to their knees
A friar holds up a monstrance in a shopping centre in Preston while members of the public come and kneel before it in a seemingly spontaneous act of devotion
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
A EUCHARISTIC “flash mob” held on Ascension Thursday in the centre of Preston, Lancashire, has attracted international attention due to a YouTube film of the event that has been viewed by 54,000 people.
The clip shows two Capuchin Franciscan friars astounding passers-by as Brother Paul Coleman stands outside the shopping centre, puts on a white stole and lifts out a monstrance from his bag, which he holds up high.
Franciscan friar Brother Loarne then addresses the crowd through a microphone, announcing, “Jesus Christ is in every book of the Bible”, and invites shoppers to
“come and kneel before him now”.
In traditional flash mob style, participation grows as, one by one, members of the crowd come and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, and then burst into rapturous applause as Brother Loarne declares: “He is my joy, he is my comfort, he is my Lord and he rules my life.” Then the participants disperse and Brother Paul quietly walks away.
Brother Loarne said people who took part “seemed to go away with a greater sense of peace”. He said that reaction to the footage on YouTube showed the power of the sacrament. “Many people are saying that watching it moves them to tears,” he said.
The flash mob is a new phenomenon involving a group of people assembling suddenly in a public place and performing an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act. The first flash mob in Britain took place in 2006 and involved more than 4,000 people dancing to music on their personal MP3 players at Victoria Station.
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The 9th of July marks a momentous occasion – the birth of South Sudan as an independent nation.
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